City of Toronto awards $5.5 million in COVID-19 Vaccine Engagement Teams Grants to local agencies for vaccine outreach in vulnerable communities

Today, Mayor John Tory announced the recipients of the City of Toronto’s $5.5M COVID-19 Vaccine Engagement Teams Grants – a key part of the City’s COVID-19 Community Mobilization and Engagement Plan to connect with vulnerable residents and communities across Toronto.

The grants, which have been awarded to community agencies and resident-led groups, will fund outreach and engagement activities in 140 neighbourhoods, with a specific focus on the communities that have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fourteen Vaccine Engagement Teams have been created, reflecting 155 community organizations across the city. Their focus is on reducing barriers to the COVID-19 vaccines, and increasing vaccination uptake among our most vulnerable residents.

Through the grants, Vaccine Engagement Teams will be funded to carry out work between April 2021 and March 2022, and are expected to play a significant role in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

A key part of the Vaccine Engagement Teams’ work is recruiting 280 resident ambassadors – local and trusted leaders in communities across the city, who have on-the-ground relationships and networks in the neighbourhoods where they work and live. These multi-lingual ambassadors will work with community agencies to reach out and make connections in their areas, and provide information about and connections to vaccination options. They will be trained by behavioural scientists on information about COVID-19 vaccines, common vaccine concerns and other COVID-19 risk reduction strategies, and will act as local contacts for residents.

Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods are divided into 10 geographic clusters. At least one Engagement Team in each geographic cluster was awarded funding to conduct outreach and provide support to residents. Each team has a lead organization that will act as administrator of the grant, with funds distributed to between 10 and 20 community agencies and grassroots, resident-led groups within their geographic cluster.

Lead organizations for each area include:

  • Black Creek Humber Summit
    • Lead: Lumacare
  • Downtown East
    • Lead: The 519 Community Centre
  • Downtown West
    • Lead: Scadding Court Community Centre
  • East York Don Valley (two teams)
    • Lead: TNO-The Neighbourhood Organization
    • Lead: Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services
  • North Etobicoke
    • Lead: Rexdale Community Health Centre
  • North Scarborough
    • Lead: Agincourt Community Services Association
  • North York
    • Lead: North York Community House
  • South Etobicoke
    • Lead: Lakeshore Area Multi-service Project Inc.
  • South Scarborough
    • Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities
  • York West Pelham
    • Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre
Six of the 10 geographic clusters were identified as experiencing disproportionate COVID-19 spread and impact. With this in mind, community agencies in these areas –located in the city’s northwest, northeast and Scarborough – will receive an increased allocation, for a total of $500,000 per area.

Two additional clusters have been added, to focus specifically on Newcomer and Black Resilience outreach, and have each received $400,000. The Newcomer cluster Engagement Team is led by FCJ Refugee Centre and Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre, while the Black Resilience Engagement Team is led by TAIBU Community Health Centre.

In addition, Indigenous agencies and groups will receive separate, additional funding of $1-million to self-determine their approach to community engagement and mobilization.

The collaboration between the City and the community services sector will effectively support vulnerable populations across geographic clusters who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including Black and Latin Canadian/Hispanic Torontonians, LGBTQ2S+ communities, people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, seniors, South Asian,  Southeast Asian and West Asian Torontonians, undocumented persons and youth.

A list of awarded agencies and a map showing boundaries of the areas in which Engagement Teams will work are available at: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-vaccines/covid-19-city-immunization-program/?accordion=vaccine-engagement-teams.

Quotes:

“We’re working with community organizations that residents know and trust and we will utilize those relationships to increase vaccine uptake. It’s this kind of cooperation between the City and community partners that will have a lasting and positive impact on the health of our city and its residents. The grants are part of the City’s community investment funding program and supports the community mobilization and engagement plan. This work will help us get people vaccinated and will help us bring this pandemic to an end.”

– Toronto Mayor John Tory

“The City’s community services sector plays an essential role in improving the lives of Toronto residents. These grants will enable partner organizations in this sector to expand their impact across the city by recruiting local Resident Ambassadors to positively impact their neighbourhoods. As our partners adapt and deliver vital vaccine information to each community, we will likely see greater local uptake, improved health protection, and a more rapid return to a full and active post-pandemic life.”

– Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic and Community Development Committee

“The largest immunization campaign in our city’s history is underway. Getting it right means connecting with people in their communities: where they live, where they worship, where they work and go to school. That’s why our Community Mobilization and Engagement Plan is built on partnerships with local community agencies that have deep ties to the people and neighbourhoods that they serve. By supporting these agencies to build trust and connections on-the-ground, we can increase support for and access to COVID-19 vaccines, and help protect our city and our residents.”

– Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Board of Health

“Given what we have observed over the last year, we are honoured to be the lead agency and support the work of a great consortium of established Black-led agencies in Toronto. The Black Resilience team will continue to build on the efforts already in place in addressing the impact of COVID-19 on diverse Black communities and facilitate their access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

– Liben Gebremikael, Executive Director, TAIBU Community Health Centre

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